What does casual racism look like in LGBTQ spaces? A lot like casual racism everywhere else.
Casual racism thinks mixed race people are “exotic,” penis size is determined by race according to “some studies” that probably don’t exist, black women are aggressive, and just about every other common racial stereotype under the sun.
Really, stereotypes fuel casual racism in all its forms.
Casual racism also thinks that LGBTQ people have transcended all responsibility for dealing with racial issues.
For example, if you’re a queer person of color who wants to vocalize a racial concern in a predominantly white queer space and casual racism rears its head, you could be accused of being divisive (extra irony points if you were pointing out divisiveness that actually exists).
Sometimes casual racism masquerades as inclusion or open mindedness. For example, there are some gay people who go out of their way to date someone of another race just to say they’ve done it.
Such gays then receive the Congratulatory Cookie of Open Mindedness from people of color for letting us sleep with them.
But not really, because dating someone because of their race is as ridiculous as rejecting someone because of their race.
The same applies to predominately white gay groups that go out of their way to snag token people of color (oblivious to the fact that these spaces don’t always feel inclusive to the people of color in question).
Tokenism may seem progressive on its surface, but it’s really just another form of othering.
So if you see casual racism, remember it. And talk about it.
Notice if you’re ever guilty of it and, if you are, take responsibility for it.
I would say explain it to other white LGBTQ people, but it’s frustrating when it takes a white person saying the same thing people of color have been saying for ages to convince other white people to change their actions.
Instead, tell them to take the race related concerns of LGBTQ people of color seriously – as in listen to us.
As LGBTQ people, we get silenced all the time, told we’re too sensitive, told not to flaunt our sexuality.
Sexual minorities of color can find themselves silenced further when their concerns about race are dismissed by the predominantly white, mainstream LGBTQ community.
Let’s keep working to change that."
— Jarune Uwujaren, “How White LGBTQ People Can Be Inclusive Of People Of Color,” Everyday Feminism 2/5/13 (via collectivecadaver)
If you know me personally, especially if we’ve hung out much in the past couple years, you probably know that I’m pretty open and not too fussed about my sexuality. I generally identify as “meh, idk, sometimes people are hot” and I’ve been pretty open for a while about sometimes liking girls, even though I’ve primarily always dated guys - I’m a big believer in the Kinsey scale and I’ve never felt much of a need to define exactly how I identify or to ‘come out’ as anything, and obviously I have no obligation to anyone to do either of those things.
But I’ve become more and more concerned about the way bisexuality is defined and perceived by so many people and so much media - as not really being a real thing (in the immortal words of Liz Lemon, “just something invented in the ’90s to sell hair products”), as being just a bit slutty, indecisive, or greedy. We’ve all heard the stereotypes. So even though I recognize that it’s totally valid that I’ve never felt the need to come out, I’ve started to worry that my reluctance to do so might have been motivated by more than just personal feeling. I think a lot of people in my situation don’t come out or make a big deal about their sexuality partially because we’re repeatedly told that our sexuality isn’t really a thing - to a lot of people it’s not as big a deal as coming out as gay, especially when it’s perceived as just not having really made up your mind yet. And I think on some subconscious level I might have bought into some of this thinking - I’ve always been predisposed to downplay it, especially since I’ve become more open about it: I always discuss it in a very casual way, partially because in a lot of ways it doesn’t feel like a big deal to me, but also because I maybe realize that some people might not take it seriously anyway or might not entirely understand it.
So after mulling it over for a while I’ve decided to actually really come out, not because I have this great burning personal need to do it, but more because I feel frustrated by any kind of notion that being bi (or any variant on the scale that isn’t gay/straight) means your sexuality doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.
I’ve been incredibly lucky: 99.9% of the people I know with whom I’ve had any conversations about this kind of stuff have been really chill, obviously, because I have great friends and impeccable taste in all people. But even some of my friends who are generally incredibly open-minded and very relaxed about anything non-hetero have been a bit confused or taken aback by my sexuality and the way I think about it. How can I possibly also like girls when I’ve had several long-term relationships with men and I talk about my ludicrous attraction to Ben Whishaw, like, all the time? And I don’t blame them: we live in a world where bisexuality is grossly under-represented, and even when you do have bi people and characters, the representations are often incredibly problematic, tying into all the stereotypes I’ve already mentioned. In more harmful ways, I’ve also encountered every disbelieving reaction in the book, ranging from the oft-heard “it’s just a phase” (my favorite - “hun you’re just going through a break up, you’ll feel better about things soon”) to accusations of attention-seeking and full-on sluttiness. Obviously all these things don’t make you feel great about yourself, and can affect the way you think about your sexuality.
I’m not saying it’s easy to be gay or to be straight - comparing the woes of different identities is obviously idiotic and beside the point. But I do think that there are certain really tough things that bi people encounter, and because bisexuality is so misunderstood and underrepresented, it’s hard to feel like a change will happen anytime soon without concerted effort. I envy my friends who don’t have to worry about their potential partners accepting their sexuality, I hate feeling nervous about explaining myself on dates and potentially dating a straight guy or a gay girl who doesn’t really get it. I’ve dealt with people I’ve dated having trouble understanding it or feeling jealous, and again, to an extent I get it, because there’s comparatively so little positive, thoughtful communication in our society about bisexuality.
Some of these issues have affected me in ways that I’ve only recently recognized as incredibly negative. Some time ago I was assaulted by someone I considered a friend, a woman. As I (and many women) am wont to do with things like this, I massively downplayed it, telling some friends about it but making out like it wasn’t a big deal, because I didn’t really want to deal with it. A big part of me didn’t want to be honest about what had happened because I didn’t really think it would be taken seriously - take into account the fact that we were friends, we’d been drinking, and she knew how I identified, I just didn’t have any confidence that anyone, including the police, would believe the drunk bisexual girl in the short skirt who’s friend was bothering her or something. I have a lot of anger and a lot of opinions in general when it comes to the treatment of sexual assault victims in our society, which is a conversation for a different time, but I think in this particular instance my reaction was profoundly affected by my sexuality and my fears about how it is perceived. Would I have had qualms about being honest with my friends and with authorities if I was 100% straight? I probably still would, because patriarchy, obviously,but I think they would have been less strong.
And of course it’s natural for me and people like me to feel frustrated and concerned and confused about our sexuality, in a way that sometimes leads to us making harmful decisions or handling communication poorly. How could we not, when we’re told from all sides that our sexuality isn’t a real thing? Even when history classes, textbooks, and museums are willing to be honest about the non-heterosexuality of a historical figure, the assumption is made far too often that the person was clearly gay, but they just felt societal pressure to pretend to be straight and get married or whatever. I’m not saying that probably wasn’t the case a good amount of the time, but it does lead to a highly problematic effacement of bisexuals from all but the most recent history. It’s a problem when the closest thing to a bi role model I had when I was young was Maureen in Rent. God bless Jonathan Larson and queen of everything Idina Menzel, but Maureen is portrayed as a manipulative, unfaithful ho-bag, even though her moo-ing is outstanding. It’s grim when stock images of bis look like #6 on this excellent list.
And probably my most recent realization, and one of the central ones in spurning my weird need to write this massive diatribe, is to what extent all these issues really really affect even the most open-minded, conscious person’s idea of what it means to be bisexual, hence all the problems and difficult conversations I’ve already outlined. I’ve never felt comfortable labeling myself as bi because I never really thought I was bi-enough, like I was supposed to have passed some kind of test of attraction or dated exactly the same number of women as men. It’s the most stereotypical issue bi people face: you’re not really bi, you’re just gay when you’re dating a woman and straight when you’re dating a man. Being in happy, committed relationships with guys, I just never felt quite ‘authentic’ enough, and I didn’t want to be perceived as attention-seeking or trying to be trendy. For a while I told people I was like “90% straight, I guess,” which quickly devolved into “80%” and then “idk like 60-68%.” I guess what I’m saying is the fact that I’ve felt the need to give people specific percentages of whatever I feel my sexual preferences might be at that time is an absolute joke. And I’m not saying that it’s not ok for people to identify by giving their exact percentages if that’s how they want to express it - that’s totally fine. But I’m probably a lot more comfortable actually just telling people I like guys sometimes and girls sometimes and not being nervous that I’m not bi enough because I’ve had a lot of boyfriends or because I’m not always straight 50/50 down the middle. That is stupid.
If you’re bi and you want to come out, come out. If you’re bi and you want to keep it quiet, keep it quiet. If you’re sort of whatever and want to be sort of whatever about it, that’s great. But do everything you do because you want to do it. I’m expressing myself loudly about this on the internet because I’m mad about all these things, and if I can even subtly affect the way one of my followers or Facebook friends thinks about this stuff then I’m ok with putting a big embarrassing tirade out there. And for me personally, the fact that despite all my openness I’m still a bit nervous about publishing this, tells me that it’s something that’s very much needed.
And on that note, I’ve decided to jump on the 'this is #whatbilookslike train', even though mine right now might be a bit more ‘this is #whattotalconfusionlookslike’ for me, and that’s fine. So here’s a picstitch selfie, which also serves as a reminder that even if my sexuality is fluid my ability to make faces like a moron will always be the same. And if you’ve actually read all this, it means a lot to me and I love you for it, and joke’s on you ‘cause you could’ve spent those minutes watching videos of sloths eating potatoes or something. Xxxxx
Because I have wonderful, awesome friends who write wonderful, awesome things.